Whether or not to stain pine fences is primarily a matter of preference. It is done in an attempt to maintain a specific appearance throughout the life of the fence, or to extend the longevity of the fence. Most woods, including treated pine, will eventually fade to a silver gray color. Stain may add some life to your fence, but its primary contribution is color. There are several factors you ought to think about when considering stain.
Treated Lumber Longevity
Treated lumber is dipped in a chemical bath containing elements that help to slow rot and resist pests such as bores and termites. The lumber is then subjected to high pressure, which forces the chemicals deeper into the material. Most treated lumber is rated at .20, or .40. This is not the number of years the product will last, but rather the pounds per square inch of pressure it was subjected to in the treatment process. The higher the number, the longer the material should last. Stain cannot penetrate as deeply as the treatment, and is unlikely to add any usable preservative to treated lumber.
Treated pine starts out with a greenish tinge due to the chemical bath. It may also have white chalk residue in what looks like water lines on its surface, depending on the treatment method used. The residue and the green tint will subside over time and typically last less than six months. Stain can help to slow surface oxidation, thereby maintaining the wood's color longer. This is offset by the fact that the stain itself will darken the fence considerably. Choose a color that is a shade lighter than you intend when staining a new treated fence, as it typically dries darker than expected.
Upkeep is important before and after staining or painting exterior wood. Before staining, remove any small rough places or areas that have sharp jutting slivers with a rotary tool and a sanding drum. Wood will weather to a silver color and maintain that appearance throughout its life when left on its own. The fence will need to be restained periodically. The frequency with which this is done will depend in part on the product and application method. Use an oil penetrating translucent stain for best results in long-lasting appearance.
Stain can be sprayed, brushed, or rolled onto your fence. The best application method is a combination of a roller for speed and a brush for details. Spraying tends to waste a lot of product in overspray, and may not coat as thoroughly as rolling. Work with a professional airless paint sprayer for superior coverage and penetration if you do decide to stain. A low pressure garden sprayer is inadequate for applying stain. Whether spraying, rolling or brushing, work the stain into the seams between pickets and other nooks and crannies for the best results.
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